The Osirian Bindings

Looking through the PGM recently, I came across a delightful little entry from PGM VII.429—458, “A restraining [rite] for anything”.  The description of the effects of this binding ritual is impressive: “works even on chariots…causes enmity and sickness, cuts down, destroys, and overturns for whatever you wish…the spell, when said, conjures daimons and makes them enter [objects or people]”.  Impressive, indeed.  I figured we might talk about this ritual today, even if only because it has a bit of interesting description about the powers of the Moon and how it relates to the efficacy of long-term magical items buried underground.  Why am I deciding to share this one today?  Eh, why not?  Seems like we can always use good ritual tech, after all.  Sometimes it’s good to get back to your roots, and this type of restraining spell is a classic, an example of malefica we’d otherwise call defixio or katadesmos a.k.a. “curse tablets”, but this time containing some interesting Egyptian elements.  Why are we bringing this up today?  Well, why not?

The thing about this ritual, however, is that it’s not one binding, but two, each one operating in different ways using the same apparatus.  We’ll break down this ritual into several parts.

Creating the Binding Plate

The main implement of both of these binding rituals is that of a lead plate, ideally “from a cold-water channel”; in our modern day and age, any old lead pipe that was used for plumbing and carrying unheated water would be ideal.  You’d take such a bit of lead, hammer and roll it out thin, and there you go, but do what you can; you can also get pre-rolled sheets of lead just fine, or if you’re worried about toxicity, a soda can or beer can you drain out and cut up into a large rectangle will work, too, especially if you pour out the drink as an offering to the spirits of the underworld who’ll do the work.

On the plate, engrave with a “headless bronze needle” (i.e. a needle that does not have a hammer-flat “head” on it, like how railroad spikes do, or any sort of ornamentation) the following:


I give over to you, Lord Osiris, and I deposit with you this matter: …

“Add the usual” at this point; write down what you wish to happen.  Transliterated into Roman script, the barbarous words are:


Betz in his translation makes several notes about the barbarous words above and how much Egyptian can be spotted in them:

  • ΟΥΣΕΡΣΕΤΕΜΕΝΘ: wsir nfr, “Osiris the Good”
  • ΕΜ ΜΑΙ: “in truth”
  • ΕΜΕΡ ΙΣΙ: “whom Isis loves”
  • ΟΥΝΝΕΦΕΡ: either ḥwn-nfr “beautiful youth” or wn-nfr “Onnophris”

Anyway, with the lead plate engraved, it’s time to consecrate it.  It should be consecrated with bitter aromatics, such as myrrh, bdellum, styrax, aloes, and thyme, and with “river mud”; I would interpret this, personally, to mean that the plate should be suffumigated in an incense composed of herbs like the foregoing, washing it and smearing it with mud from a river in the process.  This is to be done “late in the evening or in the middle of the night”—midnight would be ideal.

At this point, we have one of two choices in how we want to go about this binding.

Approach #1: The Drowned Binding

All the foregoing would ideally be done at the place where the lead plate is to be deposited, but if not, do it in private and then take it to its place of deposition, into a stream or drain that leads away, preferably into a larger body of water.  The plate is to be tied to a sturdy cord or string and anchored or tied to where the person casting the binding can reach it; punching a hole in a corner and tying the thread through the hole would be good.  The plate is then thrown into the stream, reciting the above incantation that was written on the plate seven times.  Be sure the plate does not drift away, become untied, or otherwise unreachable; be sure this is done in a place where others will not interfere with the plate or string.

When you want to undo the binding, pull the plate out from the water using the string and untie the plate from the string.

Approach #2: The Buried Binding

Instead of throwing the plate into a river or stream, the plate may also be buried or left in a hole, well, coffin, or larger body of water.  In addition to writing the above, also write the Ephesian words (which this PGM entry says are “Orphic”):


Transliterated into Roman script:


Take the plate and tie and bind it all around on the outside with a black thread using 365 knots.  How to do this?  You could make 365 holes around the edge of the plate and tie the thread continuously through each hole and knotting each one, or make one hole in the plate to anchor the thread, tie the thread through that, then loop the thread all over and cocoon it in the thread, knotting it each time for a total of 365 times.  While doing this, recite over and over the Ephesian words (or at least ΑΣΚΙ ΚΑΤΑΣΚΙ) followed by your charge of binding (e.g. “Keep him held”, etc.).  This done, the plate may be deposited wherever you wish.

However, this should be done at a place where you have access to, ideally being able to stand directly over the place of deposition.  The reason for this is that PGM VII.429ff claims that “Selēnē, when she goes through the underworld, breaks whatever [spell] she finds”.  To circumvent this and keep her from breaking the binding, the above formula of the Ephesian words with the charge of binding should be recited at least once daily on the spot where the plate is buried.  In this case, the binding is considered to be in effect for as long as one maintains this daily practice.

Close of the Binding

Whenever you’re done with the ritual, whether binding or unbinding your target, leave the place of deposition.  Do not turn back and do not look backwards; do not speak a word to anyone for any reason until you get home.  Once you do get home, wash yourself thoroughly, making sure you can immerse every part of your body in water, then go to sleep.  Maintain a vegetarian diet for at least seven days in this process to maintain purity and holiness, and to ensure that your work will continue strong.

Technically, this close is only mentioned for the first method of binding, not the second.  However, it would also be a good practice to engage in it for the second option as well to increase both the general purity and the protection of the practitioner.  After all, when engaging with chthonic and underworld powers, it helps to be respectful.  I’d even take the extra step of taking a different route back to my home than the one I used to take to the place of deposition, but that’s just me.

A Reconstructed Hymn to Hermēs-Thoth from the Greek Magical Papyri

Looking through the various hymns of the Greek Magical Papyri so helpfully listed by Preisendanz is a good boon for devotional work; to be sure, the PGM is full of magical spells for all sorts of ends, both for weal and for woe, but there’s a good bit in there that’s definitely more priestly than magely and more devout than spooky.  After all, so much of these rituals are still calling on the gods themselves, and although a good number of the hymns (usually the ones to female and chthonic deities, as Bortolani noticed) do seek to constrain, slander, or bind the gods, others exalt them and praise them for their own sake in the course of a magician seeking their succor.  One of these hymns—technically three—is a hymn to Hermēs, which is found in three separate locations throughout the PGM.  Although they all have similarities with each other, there are also some interesting differences between them, as well; it’s hard to tell which would be older or the original form of the hymn, but in comparing them, it’s also possible to merge them together into one.  That’s what I’ve done to increase my prayer arsenal a bit by coming up with a…well, I guess a “reconstruction” of sorts, and I’d like to show it off today and point out some interesting bits about this varying hymn.

First, let’s take a look at the version of the hymn from PGM V.400—420.  The broader section of the PGM here is PGM V.370—446, an elaborate dream oracle involving 28 olive leaves, ibis eggs, and other ingredients to make a statue of Hermēs in his Greek form “holding a herald’s staff”, charged with a roll of papyrus or the windpipe of a goose that has a spell written on it along with the hair of the supplicant, enshrined within a box of lime wood.  This shrine is to be put by the head before going to sleep to incubate a dream revelation.  Although there are barbarous words used in this ritual, they’re more for the papyrus than to be spoken, although there is a (seemingly unrelated) spell of compulsion and a conjuration of a lamp present as well.  As for the hymn, which is to be recited “both at sunrise and moonrise”:

Hermēs, Lord of the World, who’re in the heart,
o circle of Selene, spherical
and square, the founder of the words of speech,
Pleader of justice’s cause, garbed in a mantle
With winged sandals, turning airy course
Beneath earth’s depths, who hold the spirit’s reins,
O eye of Helios, o mighty one,
Founder of full-voiced speech, who with your lamps
Give joy to those beneath earth’s depths, to mortals
Who’ve finished life. The prophet of events
And Dream divine you’re said to be, who send
Forth oracles by day and night; you cure
All pains of mortals with your healing cares.
Hither, o blessed one, o mighty son
Of Memory, I who brings full mental powers,
In your own form both graciously appear
And graciously render the task for me,
A pious man, and render your form gracious
To me, NN,
That I may comprehend you by your skills
Of prophecy, by your own wond’rous deeds.
I ask you, lord, be gracious to me and
Without deceit appear and prophesy to me.

Then the hymn from PGM VII.668—680 (broader section PGM VII.664—685).  Again, this is another ritual for a dream oracle, this time writing your request on linen in myrrh ink wrapped around an olive branch and put beside the head before one goes to bed.  This hymn is to be said seven times to an otherwise unspecified lamp, presumably left burning while one goes to sleep.  The hymn is followed with barbarous words similar to the inscription of the papyrus/goose windpipe from the PGM V procedure, also to be recited with the hymn proper:

Hermes, lord of the world, who’re in the heart,
O circle of Selene, spherical
And square, I the founder of the words of speech,
Pleader of Justice’s cause, garbed in a mantle,
With golden sandals, turning airy course
Beneath earth’s depths, who hold the spirit’s reins,
The sun’s and who with lamps of gods immortal
Give joy to those beneath earth’s depths, to mortals
Who’ve finished life. The Moirai’s fatal thread
And Dream divine you’re said to be, who send
Forth oracles by day and night; you cure
Pains of all mortals with your healing cares.
Hither, o blessed one, o mighty son
Of the goddess who brings full mental powers,
By your own form and gracious mind. And to
An uncorrupted youth reveal a sign
And send him your true skill of prophecy.

And then the hymn from PGM XVII.b, which is the entire papyrus.  There’s no procedure here, just a prayer given, no barbarous words, and the condition of this entry is poor given the number of lacunae.  However, based on the text in the prayer, it also appears to be used for another dream incubation/oracle/revelation ritual:

[Hermes, lord of the world], who’re in the heart,
[O orbit of Selene, spherical]
[And] square, the founder of the words [of speech]
[Pleader of justice’s cause,] garbed in a mantle,
[With winged sandals,] who rule [expressive] speech
[Prophet to mortals] . . .
For he inspires . . .
. . . within a short time . . .
[Whene’er] the fateful [day arrives] again
. . . [who send] some [oracle] that’s sure, you’re said
To be [the Moirai’s thread] and [Dream divine],
[The all-subduer, Unsub]dued, just as
. . . may you judge . . .
You offer good things to the good, [but grief]
[To those who’re worthless.] Dawn comes up for you,
For you swift [night draws] near. I You lord it o’er
The elements: fire, air, [water, and earth]
When you became helmsman of [all the] world;
And you escort the souls of those you wish,
But some you rouse again. For you’ve become
The order of the world, for you [cure], too,
Man’s [every] ailment, [who send oracles]
By day and night; [send] me, I pray your [form],
For I’m a man, a pious suppliant,
And your [soldier]; and so, [while I’m asleep],
[Send to me your unerring] mantic skill.

We can see that, although all three prayers start the same and sorta end the same, the PGM V and PGM VII hymns are much closer in form and structure than the one from PGM XVIIb, which seems to have more praise and description of Hermēs than the other two, but even that does still sync up with the other two hymns at times.  In that light, seeing the connection between certain phrases (even if worded slightly differently or in a different order), I compared and contrasted the three versions of the hymns and developed my own “reconstructed” hymn.  Perhaps “reconstruction” is too strong a word; what I really did was weave these three variants of the hymn together into one.  To do so, I largely used the basis of PGM XVIIb and added in the content from PGM V and PGM VII as necessary and where possible; I didn’t delve too deeply into the Greek here, and I did change some of the wording to be both more literal and more descriptive as far as the translation goes based on Betz, but in the end, this is what I came up with.

O Hermēs, Lord of All the Cosmos,
o you who are in the heart,
o wheel of the Moon
both circular and square,
first author of the words of speech,
o you who persuade for Justice’s sake,
o mantle-garbed, wearing winged golden sandals,
driver of spirit riding ’round the airy course below Earth’s abyss,
o eye of Hēlios,
first founder of full-voiced speech!
With your immortal lamps,
give joy to those beneath Earth’s abyss,
to mortals who have finished life.
Prophet to mortals,
you’re the one said to be the thread of the Moirai and Dream divine!

O All-Subduer and Unsubdued!
To the good you offer good things,
but to the craven you give grief.
Dawn rises up for you,
and for you swift Night draws near.
You became master over the elements,
over Fire and Air and Water and Earth,
when you became the steersman of all the cosmos.
You escort away the souls of those whom you wish,
but of some you rouse back up again!

For you have become the order of the world,
emissary of oracles both by day and by night.
You cure all pains of all mortals with your healing attendance.
Come to me, I pray, o blessed one,
o great son of mind-perfecting divine Memory,
in gracious form and gracious mind!
For I am one who is a pious supplicant, I am one who is your soldier.
Render your form graciously and reveal yourself to me,
that I may fathom you by your mantic arts and by your virtues;
I ask you, o Lord, be gracious to me,
without deceit appear to me,
send forth your sacred sight to me!

You can tell that I didn’t bother keeping with the original line-based structure or dactylic hexameter meter of the original hymn; that’s a job for a poet better than me, while I focused more on the content and meaning of the hymn.  I broke out the lines more or less into individual phrases that made sense to me, which also explains the relatively long line length of the hymn compared to the originals, and reworded a few things to be clearer based on my own understanding of the Greek diction and grammar used here. I did try to keep this a more literal translation than what’s given in Betz, though the end of the hymn is a bit weird; all three variants of this hymn are all focused strictly on a dream divination, so it constantly references “oracle” or “art of divination” or “mantic skill”, which I rendered more obliquely as “sacred sight” in the final line.  A bit of a twist on my part, to be sure, but this is a twist that encapsulates both a theophany of the god as well the oracular power of the god at the same time, in my view.

I also broke up the hymn into three sections, with the first and last containing text (almost entirely) common to at least two out of three variants of the hymn, and the middle section containing content from PGM XVIIb.  There’s one line from PGM XVIIb that is in the first section given how it flows (“Prophet to mortals…”), and likewise two lines in the last section (“For you’ve become the order of the world” and “…and your soldier”); I keep these here, even if they’re not part of PGM V and PGM VII, given the flow and grammar of the hymn, but they’re minor additions that fit well all the same.  My reasoning is that, because PGM XVIIb is the weirdest variant but still contains some of the content of the other two variants in PGM V and PGM VII, I use that as the skeleton of the whole structure and fill in the rest as necessary; this basically assumes that the variants in PGM V and PGM VII had the content from PGM XVIIb fall out at some point, and that these are condensed or shortened versions of the hymn.  It’s a pretty big assumption to make, to be absolutely fair, but it also allows us to make the most out of all these variants together at once in the cleanest way.

While all of the content of the hymns from PGM V and PGM VII are accounted for, there are a few lines from PGM XVIIb that I couldn’t do anything with on account of their incompleteness (“For you inspire…”, “…within a short time…”, “whenever the fateful day arrives again”, “…who send some oracle that’s true”, “just as…may you judge…”).  Betz notes that some of these bear similarity to Homeric verses, but the context isn’t clear enough to offer a firm reconstruction of these missing parts of the hymn.  It’s likely, given these parallels to Homeric verses that describe going down to the underworld (which PGM XVIIb seems to elaborate on heavily in Hermēs’ role as psychopomp), that these lines describe something similar.  This is just an outright guess, but something appropriate might go something like this (with boldface text being what survives and can be reconstructed by Betz/Preisendanz):

Prophet to mortals in life, guide to mortals in death,
for you inspire quickness in the mind and daring in the heart
and takes mortals below within a short time before taking them up and
whenever the fateful day arrives again
you return them to Hadēs, you who send some message that’s true

This conjecture references the descent of great heroes like Odysseus into the underworld to progress on their quests while alive though they’ll go back down once more for good at their proper time, and also recalls the processes of ancient Hellenic necromancy through dream incubation by sleeping upon or by the tombs of the dead to receive revelation from them, which would be facilitated by Hermēs leading the dead from the underworld up again to our world briefly before taking them back down.  Again, this is all just purely a conjecture on my part, and I’ve got no clue what sort of language could be used to fit the dactylic hexameter of the hymn here.  Still, something along those lines could be considered appropriate, but we just don’t have the means to know definitively one way or another without finding another variant of this hymn that mentions these.  Because of that, I’ve omitted them from my “reconstructed” hymn.

There are a few interesting things to note about this hymn and the phrasing of it.  To be sure, there are definite Hellenic influences and symbols in this hymn, and an interesting thing to note is the description of Hermēs as “garbed in a mantle” (χλαμυδηφόρε).  It’s not all that weird to think of Hermēs wearing a cape or cloak while traveling on the road, and we certainly see Hermēs wearing it in many old depictions, but we should note that, by the time of the writing of the PGM, the chlamys was cemented firmly in the minds of people as being Greek military attire.  In that light, the supplicant referring to themselves as Hermēs’ “soldier” (στρατιώτῃ) in PGM XVIIb solidifies this militaristic view of Hermēs, along with shifting notions at this time of the chlamys being worn by not just soldiers but officials (especially rulers and emperors) in charge of soldiers.  Betz notes that a supplication referring to oneself as a soldier is found in PGM IV.154—285 in a hymn to Typhōn (Preisendanz reconstructed hymn 6, note boldface text):

I’m he who closed in heaven’s double gates and put
To sleep the serpent which must not be seen,
Who stopped the seas, the streams, the river currents
Where’er you rule this realm. And as your soldier
I have been conquered by the gods, I have
Been thrown face down because of empty wrath.

Perhaps in a particular milieu in Roman Empire-period Theban Egypt, being considered a soldier of some god was more esteemed or noble (or had more means accessible to them) than just being considered a servant or devotee of the god.

Up at the start of the hymn, all three hymns refer to Hermēs as the “orbit of Selēnē, spherical and square”.  We might also translate this phrase (κύκλε Σελήνη, στρογγύλε καὶ τετράγωνε) as “circle of the Moon, round and four-sided”, but the sentiment is basically the same.  This would appear to be a reference to Hermēs in his Egyptian form as Thoth, a god of the Moon and the cycles of the lunar month.  While I’ve seen one or two passing references to an identification of Hermēs with the Moon in non-Egyptian contexts or influences, I can’t really find anything along those lines concretely, so I’m pretty sure this is an Egyptian influence in this hymn.  “Spherical and square” (I prefer “circular and square”, personally) seems paradoxical, but each of these words could be interpreted in several ways.  “Spherical” most likely refers to the “wheel of the Moon”, but it could also refer to the actual planetary star of Hermēs himself (or, likewise, of the Moon).  “Square” could refer to Hermēs’ traditional presence as hermai, the four-sided posts at crossroads in Greece., but interpreted as “four-sided”, could refer to the four weeks of a lunar month, reckoned by the New, First Quarter, Full, and Last Quarter Moons.  It’s an interesting appellation of the god, either way.

There’s also the explicit association of Hermēs with “the thread of the Moirai and Dream divine” (Μοιρῶν τε κλωστὴρ…καὶ θεῖος ὄνειρος).  Sure, all the gods fulfill and carry out Fate, but to describe Hermēs explicitly as the “thread of the Moirai” is something stark, indeed.  Likewise, although Hermēs is certainly one to send dreams by means of sending sleep (cf. Orphic Hymn LVI to Hermēs Chthonios, “thine is the wand which causes sleep to fly, or lulls to slumb’rous rest the weary eye”), but to identify him explicitly as Dream itself is not altogether common.  But, by the same token of Hermēs being the “thread of the Moirai” in two of the hymns, he’s also the “prophet of events” in the other (Μοιρῶν προγνώστης); sure, we might interpret this as just a general divinatory allusion, but the Greek here might be more accurately translated as “prognosticator”, which has medical overtones, as this was also a term used for medical specialists and physicians. 

This, coupled with Hermēs being described as the one who “cure[s] all pains of all mortals with your healing attendance”,  gives him a bigger role than just a diviner, but also one who heals the fatal problems of fate itself.  “Healing attendance” here is “healing cares” in the other hymns translated in Betz, but this is just a single word in Greek: θεραπείαις, origin of our word “therapy”.  In this, we might even consider Hermēs to take on a presence closer to what we might expect of Asklēpios, the son of Apollōn, hero of physicians and medical workers, whose temples were also famous places for dream oracles and prognostication for and through dreams.  It’s hard to avoid this, too, given that Hermēs is described here as the “eye of Hēlios”, which works equally well in the sense of Thoth being born from the eye of Horus and Asklēpios being the son of Apollōn, as well as Asklēpios’ later identification in Hermetic literature with the 27th century bce Egyptian chancellor Imhotep, who was also a high priest of Ra.  But, as Asklēpios, he then becomes Hermēs pupil, making a complete circuit of associations.  Interesting loops we can weave between all these things, huh?  Still, even given all these solar allusions, Hermēs here is not being described as the Sun, but as a derivative and relative of it, and it’s this that is something distinctly Thothian in nature.

Perhaps not as surprising, but definitely as stark, is the description of Hermēs here as a cosmic all-ruler.  This is a definite Egyptian influence from Thoth being considered as such, giving Hermēs a much grander, more powerful role than what we might otherwise find in a purely Hellenic context.  From “offering good things to the good but grief to those who’re worthless”, we see Hermēs elevated from being merely a psychopomp of the dead to being a judge of the dead, much as we’d find Thoth weighing the heart of the deceased against the feather of Ma’at; from seeing him becoming “master over the elements…when [he] became helmsman of all the cosmos” and becoming “the order of the world”, we see him being a truly powerful organizing principle and organizer of the powers of Nature itself; even the cycles of day and night serve Hermēs in this prayer.  Hermēs as “all-subduer, unsubdued” positions Hermēs truly as “lord of the cosmos”; even the Hellenic notions of Hermēs being a god of communication and language are strengthened here by the same attributes of Thoth being called out and given to Hermēs. 

At the end of the day, the PGM Hymn to Hermēs is definitely a hymn to praise and call on the god, but in its three variants we have surviving to us, it seems that it (along with many other hymns in the PGM, especially those focused on male or masculine deities) was always centered on the revelation of oracles through dreams and sleep.  Sure, there’s enough prayer and praise in there to tweak it slightly to make it more general purpose, but the very description of Hermēs as being “Dream divine” and the repeated requests for sending prophesy and dreams, especially with a confirmed use of this hymn related to putting sacred objects by one’s head while asleep to receive information in dreams, makes this a fine-tuned hymn for receiving revelation from the god.  Even if one were to make it slightly more general-purpose by tweaking the requests at the end, we still are left with a powerful prayer invoking and praising the power of a truly syncretic Hermēs-Thoth, all-powerful in his way in ordering the world and not just guide to the dead but their judge, too.  While there are still a few mysteries left with this prayer, especially given the poor quality of one of the hymn variants that also seems to have the most in store for us, what we have left is still beautiful and still potent.  This hymn, as written, does ask for the prophecy and appearance of the god, but I think it’s still general-purpose (or generalizable) enough to be used as an all-around invocation of the god, whether Hermēs or Thoth, but especially Hermēs-Thoth the Thrice Great.

A Simple Water Blessing for the Home

I feel like it’s rare nowadays that I talk about something that isn’t something from the Corpus Hermeticum or something about geomancy, but to be fair, those are a major part of my Work and studies, and much of my writing is focused on what I’m currently working on or exploring.  In many ways, my blog is a sort of formalization of my thoughts and notes as I go about my practices that I share with the world because…I mean, why not?  I have a blog because I like to share information, and if that information can help others in their work, then all the better.  To that end, there’s something small, but immensely helpful (or so I find, at least) that I want to share today.  Remember how I mentioned not too long ago what my daily ritual routine looks like?  That was a really high-level overview of what it is I do, because I didn’t get into the specifics of what my actual prayers are, what the offerings I make are, or the like.  There are also a few minor things I do regularly that, although I don’t often see a need to share so publicly, there is something today I wanted to show: a daily blessing of my own home requiring nothing more than water and a prayer.

Every day when I wake up, I take a shower and salute my orisha.  It’s nothing required of me, although it is required of some, and although it’s not required of me to do so, I take comfort in it and draw strength from it.  Because the orisha I’ve been initiated to is one of the so-called Warriors, his sacred space resides in the foyer of my house by the front door, so every day I get a little gourd of water, sprinkle some as a libation, and ask for his blessing in my life as the first nontrivial spiritual act I do every day.  Prayer is important, to be sure, but every prayer should be accompanied by a small libation of cool, clean water, which itself is the foundation of all life, and thus the first offering we make to orisha in any situation, as it is also the foundation of all offerings.  Life couldn’t exist without water, of course, but water plays so many roles in our lives: it soothes, it cools, it heals, it purifies, it lustrates, it freshens, it protects, and it does so many things for us in so many regards.  Although there are often many types of waters used for spiritual work, plain water—so long as it’s cool and clean and drinkable—is the foundation of them all, and regardless whether it’s from rainfall or springs or rivers or wells, it’s water that allows us to survive.  Just how Hestia gets the first offering for the Greeks because without her there could be no home nor temple to worship in nor hearth nor altar to worship at, water for me is the first offering because without it there could be no life that could make offerings nor anything to grow or cultivate to give as offerings.

None of the whole orisha-saluting bit, of course, is something I recommend to people who don’t have orisha (although perhaps similar devotional salutations could be made for those who have similar relationships with their own gods), but I wanted to introduce this as context for what comes next.  It’s because this first daily salutation takes place in the foyer of my house that I’m already right next to the front door of my house, and because I don’t need to pour out the whole gourd of water for my orisha but just use a few drops to sprinkle as a token offering, that I came up with the idea of how to use the rest of the water in the gourd.  After all, if water can do so much, why not use it for the main gate of my house as well?

So I started developing a bit of a routine of sprinkling water in the threshold of my house, out towards the road from the front door, and around inside the foyer every morning as a way to bless, purify, protect, and cultivate goodness within my house.  After a while, the happenstance impromptu requests I was making became a formalized prayer in and of itself, and it’s this whole little ritual that I want to share today.  This is something anyone can do, and I would recommend anyone who can to do it for their own home wheresoever they might live or reside—even for temporary places, like hotels, or even places of business one works at or owns.

First, get a small bowl of water, about one or two cups’ worth.  Any bowl can be used, it doesn’t have to be fancy or consecrated for any particular purpose, so long as it’s clean; a thoroughly-washed margarine container or something would be fine.  Holding the bowl in your submissive hand, stand at the front door of your home (or whatever place) and open it up enough for you to stand in the threshold of it.  Repeatedly sprinkle drops of water from the bowl in the direction of the road from your doorway while reciting the following:

With this water do I cleanse the roads and the ways from this house into the world,
for the sake of myself (, my husband/wife/spouse, my children, my housemates, my colleagues, etc.)
that we may have good roads, clear roads, easy roads, safe roads to take in this life this day
that we may make all our destinations swiftly, secretly, speedily, and safely
that we may not be obstructed, impedited, confused, delayed, or distracted
that we may have safety on our way to our destinations,
safety while at our destinations,
safety on our way back from our destinations,
and safety while at home.

Repeatedly sprinkle water in all directions from your doorway, roadward and otherwise while reciting:

With this water do I cleanse our roads from all negativity,
all death, disease, and defilement
all injury, infirmity, and illness
all pain, plague, and poison
all sorrow, suffering, and sadness
all arrest, arrogance, and anger
all malevolence, mischief, and misfortune
all malefica, witchcraft, and curse
all damage, loss, and threat
that none of it may arise, that none of it may encounter us,
that none of it may seek us out, that none of it may arrest us,
that none of it may follow us back to this house…

Sprinkle water directly on the base of the threshold of your door back and forth while reciting:

…that none of it cross any boundary of this land
that none of it cross any threshold into this house
that none of it cross any doorway into this house
that none of it cross any window into this house…

Take up a handful of water and fling it directly out of your doorway, reciting:

…but that it may be blocked out, sent out, cast out, and thrown out into the world for good.

Sprinkle water into your doorway across the threshold of your home a few times, reciting:

And as I cleanse the way into this house do I invite blessing into this home…

Sprinkle water throughout the foyer, entryway, hallways, and the like of your house in the area of the front door, making a whole loop around the area eventually returning to the front door itself, reciting:

…good health, long life, prosperity, happiness, peace,
abundance, growth, pleasure, leisure, luxury,
joy, satisfaction, satiation, sufficiency, stability,
safety, protection, strength, courage, vitality,
determination, discipline, resolution, resolve,
camaraderie, harmony, companionship, love,
wisdom, knowledge, understanding, education,
accomplishment, victory, triumph, glory, honor,
enlightenment, empowerment, ascension, development, evolution,
and all good things for myself (, my husband/wife/spouse, my children, my housemates, my colleagues, etc.)
for all those who abide here in this house
for all those who lawfully, respectfully, and properly enter into this place.

Fling whatever water remains in the bowl out through the doorway towards the road, finishing with “Amen” or “So be it” or something similar to finalize the ritual.

That’s basically it.  You don’t need to memorize the exact wording if you don’t want; I share what I say, but it’s mostly just lists of things I want to avoid or invite; customize the wording as you need or want, but note the process here: clearing and cleansing the roads, washing away the impurities in the world, then cultivating blessings in the home.  The process of that is the important bit; the words you say are up to you and what you want to pray for.  It’s best if you can do this before you leave home for the day, if you do at all for errands or work or whatnot, and also good if you can do it before anyone else in your household also leaves for the day so that the blessing helps them from the get-go before they have to get on the road themselves.  It’s best if you leave the water sprinkled on the ground to evaporate normally, though it can be wiped up if you must if it’s a distraction or a danger for slippage.

I’m lucky enough to live in my own home in the middle of a forest with good tree-cover on all sides, so I have no worries bothering other people or being bothered by other people as I do this, and the people I live with are all spiritual people anyway, so nobody here is bothered by any of this that I do every morning (though, depending on how early in the morning it is, other prayers and things I do can be an annoyance to them at times).  Still, not everyone has this sort of arrangement: some live in apartments on hallways, some live with family members who don’t know about or appreciate spiritual practices of blessing, and the like.  Some of us have pets, too, which makes standing in an open doorway a risk (as I found out one morning when the asshole terrorist cat I live with decided to bolt through my legs).  In these cases, as always, do what you can in a way that makes things as discreet and safe for you as possible: breathing prayers onto the water itself before sprinkling, cutting down on prayers, sprinkling water only on the doormat, sprinkling water in nearby potted plants inside your home, sprinkling water along the baseboards, or the like.  There are lots of variations that could easily be made to suit your specific living arrangement, to say nothing of customizing this according to your own spiritual or devotional practices and relationships.  For instance, if you have a Hellenic practice, you could turn this into an offering to Hermēs Hodios (for clearing the roads), Hermēs Polytropos (for safety outside the home), and Zeus Ktēsios (for protection inside the home), or to some other set of gods.  You could also add a bit of honey to the water, or add a splash of holy water or a fragrant cologne or sweet fruit juice, or add other ingredients to the base of water itself.

In the end, although this is such a small little act, it’s the little acts that build up over time in a whole, overarching magical life.  Sometimes these are things we come up with or pick up from grimoires, but there are countless such customary acts different cultures put in place for particular needs; I’m thinking of one old Roman custom of, when entering a house where a woman is giving birth, one undoes all their belts, shoelaces, braids, knots, and the like to help ease the childbirth by allowing nothing in the house to be tied up, so to speak.  It’s these little acts that might well come across as superstition that, for many people, keep their lives whole; after all, if magic is the art and science of causing change, then any act can be made into a magical or spiritual one with the right intent.  A little sprinkle of water to appease, soothe, smooth, and cool the roads and to wash away any defilement or impurity headed for the home is something we could all make use of, I’d think.

The Geomancer’s Cross: The Motions and the Prayer

Alright, so, last time, we talked about my own take on the Qabbalistic Cross, the Geomancer’s Cross, a simple energy work and centering ritual.  Instead of envisioning the Etz Chayyim (Tree of Life) laid over the body, we simply conceive of four of the sixteen geomantic energy centers as defining a vertical axis (from Laetitia at the head down to Tristitia at the groin) and a horizontal axis (from Puer at the right shoulder to Puella at the left shoulder), meeting with Coniunctio at the ribcage with a third depthwise axis passing through to represent the Sun and Moon.  This has the benefit of reflecting both all four elements as well as all seven planets at the same time, and is done virtually identically to the Qabbalistic Cross so many already know, but with a radically different set of background rules and ideas.  What we left untouched last time, however, was the actual ritual itself.

Now that we have a foundation for the structure and theory of a Geomancer’s Cross ritual, let’s move on to actual implementation of the ritual.  So we have our four points of the body plus the intersection point that brings them all together.  Following the practice from the Golden Dawn for this ritual, what we’d do is something like the following.  Assume for now that we have a set of six things to intone; what those are we’ll discuss in a bit, just for now assume we have them.

  1. Touch the forehead.  Visualize a sphere of light at the head.  Intone the first intonation.
  2. Touch the groin (or the solar plexus if this is not possible).  Visualize a sphere of light in the groin, with a beam of light connecting it to the sphere at the head.  Intone the second intonation.
  3. Touch the right shoulder.  Visualize a sphere of light at the right shoulder.  Intone the third intonation.
  4. Touch the left shoulder.  Visualize a sphere of light at the left shoulder, with a beam of light connecting it to the sphere at the right shoulder.  Intone the fourth intonation.
  5. Press both palms together upright at the sternum.  Visualize an infinitesimally small but infinitely bright point at the intersection of the two beams of light in the body, joining them both together.  Intone the fifth intonation.
  6. Open the hands and arms out forward and to the sides in a sweeping motion.  Visualize three beams of light emanating from that intersection point: an infinite vertical one passing through both the head and the groin, an infinite horizontal one passing through both the right shoulder and left shoulder, and an infinite beam passing through the chest forward and backward.  Intone the sixth intonation.

And that’s it.  Well, mostly; that’s it for the actual motions and visualizations.  What about a prayer, intonation, or incantation for accompanying them, much like those other rituals we mentioned earlier?  We could take a hint from the Golden Dawn practice of using the doxology from the Lord’s Prayer (which the Golden Dawn version is a greatly pared-down variant that doesn’t actually match Christian religious practice, but which I’m sure they have their reasons for phrasing it the way they do).  In this light, though, there’s no need to bind ourselves to just using (badly-spoken, badly-understood) Hebrew, so why not give ourselves some options?

Head Groin Right Shoulder Left Shoulder Sternum Close
English Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever amen
Greek Σοῦ ἐστιν
Soû estin
ἡ βασιλεία
hē basileía
καὶ ἡ δύναμις
kaì hē dúnamis
καὶ ἡ δόξα
kaì hē dóksa
εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας
eis toùs aiônas
(Golden Dawn)
לעולמי עולמים
le-olemei olamim
Arabic لَكَ
إلى الأبد
‘ilā al-‘anadi
Tōk te
mən təcom†
mən peow
ša nieneh
Thōk te
nem tijom‡
nem piōw
ša eneh

* This word is not actually used in the Sahidic version of the prayer, but I included it here anyway for completeness.  I hope I got the grammar right.
† In Coptic, “c” (Ϭ) is pronounced like “ky” as in “acute” (ah-kyoot), so this word is pronounced “teh-kyohm”.
‡ In Coptic, “j” (Ϫ) is pronounced like a soft English “g” as in “giraffe”, so this word (related to təcom) is pronounced “tee-jjohm”.

What’s nice about the above formula using the doxology from the Lord’s Prayer is that there’s a loose association between what you’re saying and the general notion of what you’re connecting it to: God with Laetitia and the head, the Kingdom of the Cosmos with Tristitia and the groin as the lowest part of the center of the body, power (and thus severity) with Puer and the right (sword) arm, glory (and thus mercy) with Puer and the left (shield) arm, and eternity with Coniunctio with the heart.  To me, this is why the doxology is used in the Golden Dawn and related systems of magic.

Still, I’m sure there are other formulas one could use for such an end, too, so long as it’s a set of five words/phrases (to which are appended some variant of “amen”), or six words/phrases (no “amen”).  The Ephesia Grammata are a candidate (ΑΣΚΙΟΝ ΚΑΤΑΣΚΙΟΝ ΛΙΞ ΤΕΤΡΑΞ ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ ΑΙΣΙΟΝ or some variant thereof); for PGM-inspired methods, the six names of the Headless Rite (PGM V.96ff, “ΑΩΘ ΑΒΑΩΘ ΒΑΣΥΜ ΙΣΑΚ ΣΑΒΑΩΘ ΙΑΩ”) or Sublunar Space’s proposed Abrasax-stone version (ΧΑΒΡΑΧ ΦΝΕΣΧΗΡ ΦΙΧΡΟ ΧΝΥΡΩ ΦΩΧΩ ΒΩΧ), or the names of the six solar guardians of my own system (ΕΡΒΗΘ ΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞ ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ ΑΡΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ) are also possibilities.  The issue with this is finding some meaningful link between that which you’re saying and that which you’re doing—and I don’t see much along these lines here.

Likewise, I know we did just go over all those posts about the Perfect Nature and how to contact it from the Picatrix, with its pleasingly fourfold name of “Meegius Betzahuech Vacdez Nufeneguediz” (or “Tamāġīs Baġdīswād Waġdās Nūfānāġādīs” to use a more accurate Arabic transliteration).  We could say one at a time for each of the four points around the body, then all four together at once at the center, followed up by something like “Be with me, o Perfect Nature” (which would be, if I got the Arabic right, كن معي يا طباع اتام kun ma`ī, yā ṭibā` at-tāmm); this could be seen to work since these four names/powers do have elemental associations.  The problem with this, however, is that we already linked these four names to the four parts of the body and to the four elements—and it’s a rather different system that doesn’t match with what we’re trying to do.  In that system, we linked Fire (Vacdez/Waġdās) with the head, which matches up with the sphere of Laetitia and Air (Meegius/Tamāġīs) with the right side, but the other two names don’t match up with the element and body part that we’re looking at here (e.g. Betzahuech/Baġdīswād is given to Earth but to the left side and not to the legs as we’d need it here, and Nufeneguediz/Nūfānāġādīs to Water but to the legs and not to the left side as we’d need it here).  Either the elemental associations or the body part associations would need to change to get the two systems to play nicely, and granted that our associations of elements and body parts to the four powers/names of Perfect Nature is largely conjectural, it’s not something I’m comfortable doing as yet given how neatly the system works in its own context.

And that’s really the crux of it here: I’m not really familiar with any specific set of geomantic prayers or words of power that specifically match up with this system.  (I mean, to an extent, this doesn’t surprise me, since I really have been developing much of this as a unique system more or less independently.)  It really might be best to not look anywhere else but to geomancy itself to come up with a set of things to pray for this ritual, but—barring alchemical or Arabic methods that are presently unknown to me—I don’t know what within the system is readily available for its use.  It’s not like geomancy has much of a cosmology or mythology of its own beyond a simple origin story which may or may not have been based on a potential pre-Islamic Arabian form of augury, and that doesn’t give us a lot to work with.  We really do need to come up with something more or less from scratch, unless we just want to reuse the doxology from the Lord’s Prayer.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly effective and workable, but there might be something more independent and geomantically-appropriate we might be able to use instead.

One thing that arises to me are the use of my own set of geomantic epodes, particular seed syllables or vowel strings that I’ve associated with the figures before, and also within the context of magic and energy work.  For us, what that might look like could be “BI HA ZI DI ZĒ” (for Laetitia, Tristitia, Puer, Puella, and Coniunctio, respectively) followed by…I’m not sure, or we could use the vowel string forms of “OIEA IEAŌ OUEŌ OEĒA IUĒA” (again for the same figures in the same order), again followed by I’m-not-sure-what.  I’m not exactly thrilled by either of these options, to be honest.  I suppose they could work, but these epodes were constructed focusing on the elemental assignments and structures of the figures without regard for their planetary associations, and I dislike the heavy imbalance of the use of vowels in these epodes here.

Let’s consider taking a different track.  Rather than intoning some word of power, a brief prayer or invocation might do us better, written with one line per action (touch head, touch groin, touch right shoulder, touch left shoulder, touch heart/sternum, open hands and arms away).  This would rely more on the symbolism of the figures and, more broadly, the symbolism of what we’re trying to come up with.  Personally, I’d avoid anything too overtly elemental or planetary for such a purpose, as it might be hard to correlate that explicitly with such a ritual in prayer form—but I also won’t hesitate to say that it feels a bit gauche to me, as well.  I’d rather have something a little more poetic and flowing than a mere technical blast of intent, but that’s just me.  To that end, I gave it some thought, and can offer something along these lines for use with the six motions of the Geomancer’s Cross.  It’s not much, but it does work.

From the Rupture of Blazing Heaven!
To the Womb of Fertile Abyss!
By the Power of Fiercest Wildness!
With the Grace of Purest Mildness!
I join together the Forces of the All,
and join myself to the Lights of the All!

Six simple statements, one for each motion, each symbolic of what it is you’re trying to connect to or accomplish.  It’s elegant, at least to an extent, I suppose.  We connect to the powers above the Earth through Laetitia (with echoes of Cauda Draconis) and below the Earth through Tristitia (with echoes of Caput Draconis), followed by connecting to the severe external strength that destroys of Puer (with echoes of Rubeus) and the merciful internal strength that preserves of Puella (with echoes of Albus).  All these, representing the four elements and the four major planets and thus all the distinct powers of the world, are joined together at the elemental and planetary crossroads of Coniunctio within the self, and with all these powers of the cosmos connected together, we can then connect ourselves to the cosmos themselves through the lights of the Sun and the Moon.  That being said, it is something of a…wordy invocation for something that should be otherwise relatively simple, and that kinda makes the flow a little harsh and uneven.  So perhaps this could be cut down a notch:

From Blazing Rupture,
To Darkest Womb,
By Fiercest Power,
With Purest Grace!
Join within,
join me to the All!

As in so much else, simplicity is the highest form of elegance.  I’m sure there are other things one could write or devise, and as I begin to apply this, I’m sure I’ll stumble upon some variation of this that would work better—though, admittedly, the doxology from the Lord’s Prayer is always a tried-and-true one that, despite its Christian and Abrahamic origins, are pretty generic on their own and usable for this and many other things.  Until then, this is a useful form of energy work within a geomantic framework that I’ll keep incorporated into my own daily practice, and might recommend others to do the same, especially if they want to expand their own geomantic practices beyond simple divination.